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Manakamana2013

  • 3.9
Produced by the directors of SWEETGRASS and LEVIATHAN, MANAKAMANA is an exhilarating, one-of-a-kind documentary experience. Filmed entirely inside the narrow confines of a cable car that transports villagers to an ancient mountaintop temple, high above a jungle in Nepal, the documentary is an acute ethnographic investigation into culture, religion, technology and modernity. Built in the 17th century, the temple, "Mana" means heart; "Kamana" means wish, sits 4,271 feet above sea level in the Gorkha district of Nepal. It is the sacred place of the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati, who is believed to have the power to grant wishes. For centuries, devoted pilgrims hoping to reach the fabled temple needed to undertake an arduous multi-day journey. Today, because of a new cable car system, the entire trip takes just under ten minutes. Selected one of the "Best Films of the Year" by the New York Times , MANAKAMANA opens a rich and vibrant window onto this world over the course of eleven such rides. Each is composed of a fixed shot, lasting between nine and ten minutes, corresponding to a one-way trip and to the length of a Super 16mm reel (on which the documentary is filmed). With every sequence, we are introduced to new passengers: an elderly man and his grandson, a trio of teenage rockers, a married couple, a mother and daughter, three wives. Through their shared conversations, anecdotes, observations about the surrounding landscape, and even their silence, a detailed picture of their lives emerges; a story about history, tradition and change.

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"...one of the most compelling [essay films] in recent memory." - Clayton Dillard, the House Next Door


5 members like this review

When I first started watching this film, I thought, "There is no freaking way I'm going to get through this thing." Slowly the meditation of the rides and the story behind the cable car comes to light (how a three day journey to a temple is now nine minutes, and now the pilgrimage is more accessible to touristy people as well). No there isn't any action or adventure or a linear story but through the meditation of the rides, there is an ambient peacefulness, almost to the point where I would loop this movie and play it in the house while I'm doing other things (writing, reading, etc), I watched this on my computer with headphones so that there was also a intimacy to the viewing, as if I was much closer to being in the cable car than if it were on my television across the room. I don't know if this made a difference, but I found the two hours to go by faster and I enjoyed it much more than I expected.

2efae933f63ea5a471b86a486602ec0b?default=https%3a%2f%2fd3uc4wuqnt61m1.cloudfront.net%2fassets%2favatars%2fmale%2favatar m 0082
top reviewer

Member Reviews (7)

2efae933f63ea5a471b86a486602ec0b?default=https%3a%2f%2fd3uc4wuqnt61m1.cloudfront.net%2fassets%2favatars%2fmale%2favatar m 0082
top reviewer

When I first started watching this film, I thought, "There is no freaking way I'm going to get through this thing." Slowly the meditation of the rides and the story behind the cable car comes to light (how a three day journey to a temple is now nine minutes, and now the pilgrimage is more accessible to touristy people as well). No there isn't any action or adventure or a linear story but through the meditation of the rides, there is an ambient peacefulness, almost to the point where I would loop this movie and play it in the house while I'm doing other things (writing, reading, etc), I watched this on my computer with headphones so that there was also a intimacy to the viewing, as if I was much closer to being in the cable car than if it were on my television across the room. I don't know if this made a difference, but I found the two hours to go by faster and I enjoyed it much more than I expected.

5 members like this review

Perfect! This is exactly what I was looking for. If you're the type of person who, generally, would be entertained people-watching on public transportation in another country in a beautiful setting, then you'll probably like this. Although the directorial approach feels very hands-off, it is edited so that the people you encounter on the ride are progressively more interesting.

(I'd love this as a VR movie)

Also, I'm glad there was no narration or background info in the movie, it was all about the experience.

1 member likes this review

An exercise in mind-emptying (which is very distinct from watching a mindless film.) I am not sure what ethnographic conclusions can be drawn from this event-less film, but it is a lovely, contemplative and calming thing to watch. And it reminds me of the very healthy Norwegian idea of Slow TV.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/slow-tv

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

A 'one-of-a-kind documentary experience' doesn't mean it is necessarily worth watching. Even after viewing, I really had no idea about anything in the film until I read the blurbs and other reviews. You shouldn't have to do that. That is an easy way out. Apparently Mana means heart and Kamana means wish. But you wouldn't know that from watching the film. Are they going to the temple to fulfill their wishes? To pray for whatever? If so, you could have had say 5 riders heading up the mountain, actually explaining WHY they are going - and then film them coming back down and their reactions and experiences at the Temple. Beautiful scenery and goats just don't cut it. REPETITIVE beautiful scenery. This isn't a documentary. There is not enough information to even qualify it to call it that. It's someone's home movie. It is really good for a case of insomnia though.

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top reviewer

I gave this documentary a C+. Excuse the pun, but I found it a very uneven ride. See my review at http://bayflicks.net/2014/06/18/manakamana-a-very-uneven-ride/.

not good at all

When I first started watching this film, I thought, "There is no freaking way I'm going to get through this thing-and I couldn't!

Here's a movie idea: Put a Gopro camera inside a tram car in India and rich white people in Europe and America will call it art!

However, if you're in the mood for visual wall paper then this movie is for you-and from exotic lands!